I looked at Mom's weird boxy body that's flat in all the places where humans are sometimes curvy, and then I looked at my sleek, athletic frame that was black, but not blobby at all. "Well I don't have any boobies, and neither do you," I said. "And if one of us is going to chase contaminated critters, it should be the one of us that is up to date on his flea meds, don't you think?"
It is a tradition for four-legged runners to wear face socks in the start and finish area. Mom says it's not nice to criticize other cultures, but I don't think it's nice to humiliate anyone or hold their mouths shut. How are you supposed to do fun things like bark, eat the chips that Mom is sharing for breakfast, or lick the legs of strangers when you're wearing a face sock? Everywhere I looked there were four-legged runners smooshing their faces on the ground or punching themselves in the nose trying to get the face socks off.
Once we started walking downhill on the shady side of the mountain, Mom, whose heart pumps ice rather than blood, started to turn blue. Every mile or so, I had to come back to her and block the path so that she could bang her hands on my handsome butt until she could feel them again. It wasn’t that cold, Mom is just made with lizard parts.
Then The Man threw something on the ground a few feet in front of us. I looked where it fell, and... "HOLY CRAP!" I said. "There's a spaghetti monster sitting right next to where you were tapping your boot a second ago! Hang on, let me go check it out." The spaghetti monster was about as big around as a rope leash, and had a shakey thing on one end that made noise, and mean eyes on the other end. I knew from experience that this was called a "rattlesnake" from when Mom and I saw a bigger one
This trail was like nature's storage room, where all the cool things to see were in one place, but all disordered and piled on top of each other in a way that made them hard to look at. There were big bits of sandstone sticking out of the ground that had holes scooped out like swiss cheese, and slabby bits of rock all fanned out like someone had knocked over a stack of pancakes, and little villages of boulders in shady glades that definitely had gnomes living behind them, and a tractor that had been used in the revolutionary war, and a patch of fuzzy white plants that looked like they were covered in frost as a fashion statement, and wildflowers in all the shades of grey, and as we got higher there were views of the mountains in every direction that you looked. We could even see off in the distance where the mountains fell into the ocean and the cool, grey fog clumped like a bad mood.
A little while later the Mad River waited until Mom and I were separated and ambushed me. I had run ahead because of Excitement, and Mom was still around a bend behind me when the river said, “Aren’t you thirsty, Oscar? I’m so cool and I taste so good! Come stand on this bed of soft pine needles and drink from me while you wait for Mom…” That sounded like a great idea, so I walked out onto the bed of pine needles that was sitting at the edge of the river… and fell right in!
“Now that I’ve got 1,000 ticks on me, it’s not like another 1,000 is going to make a difference. Let’s keep exploring.”
“That’s a myth!” I huffed, flopping down in a shady spot and stretching out like Rose Dewitt Bukater posing for her sexy portrait.